The Marillion Museum
by Marloes de Wit
Just before the 2007 Weekend in Port Zelande, The Web Holland interviewed our very own Andy Rotherham about his experience of organising the popular Marillion Museums.
Tell us where the idea came from?
It all started when I saw an article in the local Aylesbury paper saying that the Buckinghamshire County Museum was looking for exhibits for their Millennium Exhibition. The exhibits should be something to do with the history of Aylesbury. I contacted them and said that they really couldn't hold such an exhibition without something from the most popular group ever to come out of the town.
To my surprise, they called me and asked if I could put something together. I spoke to the band and managed to borrow a few items. Steve Rothery loaned me his purple Charvel guitar that he had used on Hooks In You and Pete offered me gold discs. I met up with Pete and took him around to his Mum's house where his gold discs were kept in the garage!
In the end, they used the Charvel and Gold and Silver discs from Misplaced Childhood and Seasons End, along with a passage from me about how I had first seen them and how they had changed my life. I'm pleased to say they also gave in to my insistence that a car sticker with www.marillion.com was also displayed. H and Steve came to the press opening and had their photos taken with the display for the paper.
When I mentioned to Lucy the fact that The Stranglers were holding a convention at Pontins in Brean Sands, Lucy contacted The Stranglers Management with a view to Marillion doing the same and I was asked to go there on behalf of Marillion to scope it all out.
There they had a 'Stranglers Museum’, which I thought was a really great idea. However, I was disappointed when I saw that it was a few bits of memorabilia and a guitar displayed behind the patio doors of a chalet for a short period of time before the curtains were drawn.
This got me thinking about how with the experience of the Bucks County Museum Millennium Exhibition behind me and the support given to that by Marillion I could do it better. I mentioned this to Lucy when I got back and she gave me the green light to go ahead and organise it for the convention.
What do you have to do to get the Museum ready?
Well, it really is just as much Colin's baby as it is mine. We bounce ideas off each other. It's also very handy to have someone in the Racket Club with a fan’s perspective and who's willing to squirrel things away throughout the year for me.
For the first one I was going around the Racket Club and pointing at things saying 'Can I borrow that?' I remember having the faces from the lights stands on the TSE Tour, which were hanging up in the live room of the Racket Club. Steve Rothery leant me one of his original Marshall heads and we had a few gold discs around. We had also found the This Strange Engine model in the loft at the Racket Club. James from the Web UK Team had begun a restoration job on it. I think we displayed it as it was, with a few bits temporarily and precariously kept in place with blu-tac.
The second one was near the merchandise desk at Butlins, Minehead. I remember thinking that I would love to illustrate the story of the song This Strange Engine. I can't remember where we were but I had a conversation with h and he told me that he had written it as a poem and given it to his Dad. H's Mum was so great. Having heard from h what I was doing she said that she would loan me the original lyric and some precious family photos. My parents, who live not far from h's Mum drove over there and were made very welcome. There followed a mad dash down the motorway to Aylesbury, where I just had enough time for scanning, printing and framing the photos into a frame. There were photos of h on his Dad's motorbike and of his Dad onboard his Merchant Navy ship. These were displayed with the newly restored TSE model.
Also loaned to me by h was his Bluebird plaque, an invitation to sing at Donald Campbell's funeral and a letter of thanks from Gina, Donald's Daughter. I managed to borrow the original artwork for the Holidays in Eden album from h and the Market Square Heroes painting from Steve Rothery. Interspersed with all this was my own collection of memorabilia with badges, passes and similar that we found around the Racket Club. I also remember that Colin managed to rescue a microphone from a skip when the band was finally clearing out the loft in the Racket Club. This turned out to be Fish's radio mike from the Clutching At Straws Tour. That one was stressful for me as we had so many small but very valuable items on the tables and despite notices everywhere I had to keep asking people not to pick the objects up.
When it came to the last museum a change of building had been forced on me by the need for more merchandise space. They decided that I would be in a Youth Club. This, and the fact that I didn't want to be asking people not to touch all the time really got Colin, Erik and me thinking and we came up with something that we thought would shock everyone.
This time we had stage clothes from throughout their career with Steve Rothery's black Squier Strat, Pete's headless bass and two of Mark's keyboards that were programmed with sounds from previous tours. Not only could people see these items but we were allowing them to try the clothes on and play the instruments.
Did you get any help from anyone else, besides the band?
A few fans have brought rare items in for display, and Diz Minnit was really helpful with some of the really early stuff. The band has never seen any of the museums; they are full out the whole weekend so never get the time to see what we have done. Shame though.
Did you get any feedback from visitors?
As for feedback, a few people have said how much they enjoyed it. A few people kicked themselves for missing the last one.
The best and worst feedback was when h's Mum came to see what I had done with the objects she had loaned me. The experience moved her to tears as she had not long lost her husband and I think this brought it all back. I gave her a hug and told her what a special man he was and that I hoped that I done his memory proud. After the weekend I presented the frame of copied photos to h and he was moved and very grateful.
First posted on the Web UK website in 2007.